Even if you’re not a big Lord of the Rings fan, you still may recognize the key phrase “One ring to rule them all” from the epic movie and book trilogy.
But what you might not recognize is this: Hidden in that one line is a simple yet critical key to making this year a very successful one for raising money.
What is it?
It’s a simple thing, really.
In the movie, everyone was focused on ONE thing – destroying the ring.
They had a goal. They made a plan. They recruited a committee. Okay, not really a committee, but a fellowship to carry out the plan.
Then they set off on their journey.
And no matter what happened along the way, no matter what monsters they faced, they kept going, never giving up.
Can you see yet the key to your success?
Here it is: They had a driving force.
Call it a goal. Call it a purpose.
It was ONE thing that they measured everything else by.
It kept them from getting distracted by other things. (Oh, there was plenty along their way to distract them.)
It kept them focused when things got hard or when they got tired or hungry.
They knew they had to accomplish their task, so they fully committed to doing it.
Of course, it was life or death for them. Not so much for you, but still, there’s a very important lesson here.

The Common Mistake

You see, the common mistake that’s made in fundraising is what I call Shiny Ball Syndrome.
You start down one path and then some fancy new thing comes along and you decide it will be the key to your success, so you switch lanes and start chasing the new thing… Until another shiny new ball shows up, and again, you decide IT will save you, so you start chasing it.
In everyday life, it looks like this:

  • A new social media platform pops up and it’s all the rage, so you think you need to have a presence on it. You spend a lot of time building a following, but you have no strategy for monetizing it. All the while you’re playing with the new social media tool, your other stuff isn’t getting done.
  • The nonprofit down the street has a very successful, hot new fundraiser, and you decide you can do it, too. So you drop everything and start trying to figure out how to pull it off.  Remember the ice bucket challenge? Yeah, that.
  • A volunteer or Board member hears about something their Aunt’s neighbor’s cousin did to raise money and it sounds good so they think it will work for your nonprofit, too. You’re too nice to say “no” so you add it to your plate thinking “Who knows? It might just work.”

It makes me tired just thinking about it all.
These, friends, are distractions.
What you really need is a Beacon to guide you through your journey. A light to always point the way.
What you need is an Impact Goal.

Set an Impact Goal

An Impact Goal focuses you on the impact you want your nonprofit to make this year. It’s a quantifiable difference your organization’s leaders agree on and everyone moves toward it together.

For example,

  • An animal rescue group might shoot to increase the number of animals they save by 25%.
  • A food bank might work to add another 100,000 meals served.
  • A Habitat for Humanity affiliate might try to eliminate their waiting list.
  • CASA might try to double the number of CASA volunteers it has so more children can be protected in court.

See how that works?
It’s a specific, measurable goal that has some zing to it. It’s something your organization and your supporters can get behind.
And it’ll guide everything you do.
If your Impact Goal is to increase services by 25%, then everything you do needs to move you toward that goal. If an activity doesn’t help you increase services, then don’t do it. Simple as that.
Your Impact Goal is like the One Ring – it rules everything else you do.
Your entire fundraising plan should support your Impact Goal and provide the funding to make it happen.

Your One Ring

Just like the One Ring, your Impact Goal can give you a focus to your journey.
Stop driving yourself crazy trying to do every new thing that comes along.
Instead, choose only those things that move you forward toward your Impact Goal.
Your fortune is in the focus.
Check out this video where I explain more about Impact Goals.


Last week, I shared 10 things you need to do MORE of in 2017 if you want to fully fund your nonprofit’s mission. (Read it here if you missed it.)
Today, I have 10 things you need LESS of this year.

Sometimes less is more.

Cut out the things that don’t produce enough ROI to be worth your time.
Get rid of things that don’t move you forward toward your goals.
Cease immediately all the things that turn off your donors.
And for Pete’s sake, stop doing thihttp://getfullyfunded.com/wp-admin/plugins.phpngs just because you always have. It’s a terrible reason to include something in your annual plan.
So, what are you doing now that you need to do less of this year to raise more money? Here’s my list:

1. Self-centered language.  Drop the ‘fundraising french’ where you say ‘we, we, we’ and ‘us, us, us.’ Stop bragging on yourself (because who likes to listen to that?) and talk about things your donor will understand and resonate with. No more jargon. No more talking about your staff’s credentials. And please stop talking about your annual fund as if donors know what it is.
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2. Anniversary celebrations. Don’t plan a big celebration of your nonprofit’s anniversary. This date may be important to you, but chances are good that the occasion won’t motivate your donors to give, so don’t expect it to. Don’t have special letterhead printed with your anniversary date on it. Don’t plan a special reception for it (people probably won’t come). Your organization’s longevity isn’t a reason to celebrate. People EXPECT you to be around for the long haul. If you’re trying to use your anniversary as a reason to raise funds, you’re grasping at straws.
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3. Events.  Get off the special event hamster wheel and stop going from event to event all year long. Do 1 event and do it really well. Make it your signature event so everyone associates it with your organization. Pour all your event energy into this one occasion and blow it out of the water, then spend the rest of your year focused on building your donor base and improving your donor retention rate.
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4. Transactional giving. Anytime someone gets something in exchange for their ‘donation,’ it’s a transaction. Transactional giving results in people who expect stuff for their money, which is not a good situation. They’re not really donors. Instead, build up a donor base full of people who give because they love your cause and want to help make a difference. In other words, they’re in it for the transformation they’re helping bring about. It’s okay to have transactional giving in your plan, just make sure the majority of your activities are transformational.

Transactional Transformational
Selling candy bars, candles, T-shirts, calendars, etc.
Golf tournaments, walks, runs
Live or silent auctions
Direct appeals
Monthly giving
Sponsor a child/animal
Major gifts
Matching gifts

5. Looking for “rich” people. Just because someone has money doesn’t mean they’ll give it to you. So, stop looking for new donors based on how big their bank account or annual income is. Instead, look for a connection to your cause or organization. People who care about the work you’re doing are likely to give if you ask them nicely. 
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6. Spray and pray approach. Trying to reach EVERYONE with one message doesn’t work. You need to segment your list and communicate with them in a way that works for them. For example, people who are actively giving and engaged with your organization need a different appeal than those who haven’t given in 5 years or those who have never given. The message can be similar, but should be slightly different to appeal to individual segments. Likewise, don’t send one grant proposal to dozens of foundations hoping to score somewhere. It won’t work. Take the time to understand who you’re communicating with and send them the right message/appeal.
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7. Assuming people will give.  It’s so easy to fall into this trap. Your nonprofit is doing good work and YOU love it, so you assume everyone else will love it too. And it doesn’t work that way. Remember, people need to have a link and an interest in your nonprofit’s mission before they’ll give. Make sure those are there before you ask.
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8. Boring newsletters. If I could get every nonprofit to stop one thing this year, this would be it! Please, please, please stop slapping things into a newsletter format just so you can check it off your To Do list! Instead, take the time to put yourself in your donor’s shoes and ask yourself “What am I interested in? What would I like to know about?” THEN write your newsletter. Remember to keep it warm, friendly, and full of emotional connection. People should feel GOOD about your nonprofit after reading your newsletter, not bored out of their minds.
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9. Winging it. I see so many people who have a plan except that it’s in their head and changes on a dime. News flash: that’s not really a plan!  Set aside the time you need to get a plan together so you can be purposeful about raising money. When you have a clear plan, you’ll know exactly what you need to do each day, and you’ll not only get more done, you’ll be less stressed in the process.
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10. Blaming your Board. Your Board is made up of nice people who want to help you succeed, but they don’t always know how to best help. Offer them some training. Show them two or three things they can do this year to help open doors and bring resources to the table. My favorite activity is to get them involved in thanking current donors with a phone call or a hand-written note. It’s low-risk and high-impact, and afterward, Board members are usually pretty excited and ready to take on the next challenge.
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This CAN be your year! The power is in YOUR hands to get clear, lay out a strategy, and get into action to raise big bucks. Use this list to guide you around what NOT to do so you can work toward fully funding your budget.

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What’s the best thing about a new year?
Is it a fresh slate and a chance to start again?
Maybe it’s having several days off to rest and recharge.
I think one of the best things about a new year is the chance to hit the ‘pause’ button.
We have the chance to stop for a minute and evaluate things in our lives.
What happened last year?
What would we like to do again if we could? What would we like to avoid?
Most people use this as a time to create resolutions around things like diet and exercise.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you have some support.
Otherwise, it’s tough to stick to those resolutions. That’s why gym membership skyrockets in January, then the gym parking lots are nearly empty by mid February.
Now that we have a new year before us, take the time to think about your nonprofit and your fundraising, and think about what you’d like to change.
Clearly, there’s the obvious: raise more money. Right?
But go deeper.
What do you REALLY want?
Less stress? More fun?
What will it take to create all that?
What will you need to add to make that happen? What will you need to take away?
Here’s my list of 10 things you need more of and 10 things you need less of to set yourself up for bigger fundraising in 2017.

More of this:


1. Video. Hands down, video is HOT, HOT, HOT! You can shoot short video updates for your newsletter and social media, video blog posts, and sendthank you videos to your donors. It’s super easy to whip out a smart phone, shoot a 2-minute video and upload it. And your donors will love it!
My client Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption did a fantastic job during the holidays of sharing video updates on their Facebook page of dogs enjoying the snow for the first time, dogs getting treats provided by donors, and dogs just being dogs.Here’s one:

2. Donor-centered language. It’s time to use words that donors easily understand. Drop the jargon, acronyms, and your industry slang. Talk more about lives changed and less about how you did it. Talk about what the donor’s money will do and how it will make a difference. Keep it all super simple, not because they won’t understand bigger words, but because they’re busy and need to read and digest info fast.
My client Illuminate India did a great job with donor-centered language for their Giving Tuesday campaign in 2016. See if you can tell what your money will do when you give to them:
3. Mobile-friendly everything. Truth: more people are reading email and surfing social media on their phones than ever before. So, make sure your website is mobile friendly. Write short text so it’s easily read on a smart phone or tablet. Keep the graphics easy to read, too. Remember this – if they can’t see it, they can’t read it. And if they can’t read it, they won’t act on it.
4. Peer-to-peer fundraising. When people fall in love with your organization’s mission, they’ll tell others. Leverage that power with campaigns that people get excited about, and you’ll not only raise money, but gain new champions for your cause. Tools like CauseVox, QGiv, and Firespring can make quick work of it. Oh, and it can’t be “Support our annual fund”. Bad news – no one wants to support your ‘annual fund.’ Make your campaign about saving animals, feeding people, housing the homeless, etc. – whatever your nonprofit does that changes the world.
5. Meaningful thanks. Knock your donor’s socks off with a powerful thank-you letter. Tell a concise story that warms their heart. Tell them how their donation will make a difference. Make ‘em feel good.  The more conversational the letter, the better. Try this: read your letter out loud. If it feels awkward, go back and try again. Think of your thank you letter as a love note and see if that changes what you’d like to say.

Here’s a terrific thank-you note I got recently from my friends at BESTWA:

6. Monthly giving. Donors who give regularly are the most loyal donors there are. If you don’t have a monthly giving program, start one. If you have one, grow it. Create a plan for when you’ll promote it, how/where you’ll promote it, and what you’ll say to inspire them to join. If you ask someone to give an amount that’s specific to your program, you’ll be more likely to get donors.

My client Draft Gratitude asks people to pay for 1 day’s care as a monthly donation:

My client Pet Community Center gives people 3 options for monthly giving that all tie back to their mission:

7. Focus on retention. If you want your donors to stick around, you need to keep them happy. When people feel appreciated, needed, and involved, they’ll keep giving. When they feel included and part of the team, they’ll become ambassadors for you. The best way to increase your retention rate is through good communication. I’m not talking about the newsletter you threw together just so you could mark it off the list. I’m talking about messaging that sizzles on the page and warms the reader’s heart after just a sentence or two.Seriously, stay in touch regularly. Tell them stories about lives being changed. Give them updates. Strive for good communication with your donors this year and you’ll see an increase in your retention rate.
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8. Matching gifts. People love to get more for their money, and matching gifts prove that to be true. Don’t wait for a match to show up – go out and recruit one. Chances are good you’ve got a donor right now who would be willing for their gift to be used as a match. Matches are great for appeals, GivingTuesday, and more.

My client Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians raised more on GivingTuesday with a matching gift:
9. Ideal donor acquisition. Get in the habit of ALWAYS being on the lookout for new donors. You need a big, loyal donor base if you’re going to fully fund your mission, and building it is an ongoing task. Every event you host, every presentation you give, every story in the media must offer people the chance to get more involved in your work. Don’t miss opportunities to get names and contact information, and always get permission. Never add people to your list without their consent.

10. Stories/updates. Let’s face it: the reason that nonprofits exist is to make a difference, so give people evidence that you’re doing good work. Tell them stories about lives being changed to inspire them to give. Give them updates about how their donation is helping after they give.

Last year, my client Smoky Mountain Meals on Wheels raised over $12,000 in 12 days by telling stories on Facebook with a small following.
Spend some time reviewing this list of 10 things you need more of in 2017 and see which ones resonate with you. If one jumps out at you, start with that one.
Next week, I’ll share a list of 10 things  you need less of in the new year to substantially increase your fundraising revenue.

In case you didn’t get a chance to catch these the first time around, here are the most popular ones of the year:
1. Why You Need to Stop Looking for “Rich People”. Find out who you should be looking for instead. Being strategic is way better, and this article will show you the 3 most common mistakes made when people are looking for new donors, and the 1 thing you should do instead.
2. Fundraising for Introverts: How Introverts Can Stretch to Raise More Money.  Can an introvert be a good fundraiser? You bet! Learn how to stretch a bit outside your comfort zone to build relationships and succeed at fundraising even if you don’t feel like being around people.
3. Top 10 Time Wasters in Fundraising.Plug these 10 time leaks and you can get more done in your day.  
4. Fundraising Lessons I Learned From my Cat. Fundraising lessons are all around us if we just look. Here are 4 you can learn from my cat Ginger.
5. The Only Question You Need to Answer.  If you can master the art of thinking like a donor, fundraising will get easier. I guarantee it.  Try the exercise in this article to get inside your donor’s head and heart to understand what she really wants from you.
6. What Your Donors Want From You.  When you know what your donors want, you can easily give it to them. Hint: it’s not the nice tax receipt you send them. Find out the 7 things your donor really wants in this article. Also, get some ideas on ways to deliver the “wow” in their experience with you.
7. How to Turn Your Board Into a Fundraising Board. If your Board avoids fundraising like the plague, you’ll find 4 steps in this article to help solve that problem.
8. Have the Best Year-End Fundraising Ever. This article gives you 13 steps to follow to make your year-end fundraising wildly successful. With the practical ideas and tips, this one is a MUST read!
9. How the Power of Storytelling Helped Them Raise $12,000 in 12 Days.This is one of our most powerful case studies, showing how a small nonprofit with no Facebook presence went from zero to hero in a short period of time. Find out how they did it.
10. Are Donors More Likely to Support Fundraisers or Fundraising? Is it easier to sell a ticket to an event or ask for a donation? Ever wonder why that is? This article will give you some insight into why you feel that way and how to focus more on your donors.

Every fundraiser dreams of being the most loved and well supported nonprofit in town.
The charity that EVERYONE gives to and talks about.
Sounds good, right?
But how do you get there?
You need a big, loyal donor base of people who love your nonprofit’s mission. How do you grow a big, loyal donor base? You start with raising awareness of the need your nonprofit seeks to meet.

Good news story = Increased Awareness

Your story in the local news media will help spread the word about the work you’re doing. It will give you instant credibility, even if your nonprofit is very young or very small.
The old marketing adage that someone has to see your message 7 times before it sinks in is probably no longer true. Because we’re all inundated with messages now through social media, email, and more, it probably takes more like 20 times now.
Your nonprofit story in the news can be one of those times and for certain demographics who still loyally read the paper, you’ll be able to reach them.
Any time you have an appeal out, getting a story in the news will boost your response rates. It just reinforces your message to your donors and can be a good reminder if they meant to give but forgot.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is typically a slow news week and local media are hungry for feel-good stories, especially local ones that they don’t have to work hard to get. Pitch your nonprofit story a week or two ahead of time so the reporter can get it “in the can” and ready to go. After all, they want to have that week off, too.

4 Steps to Pitching a Story

Here are the basics of getting a nonprofit story in the news:
1. Pick a good story. Find the human interest angle. Don’t just pitch anything – news outlets aren’t interested in your nonprofit’s anniversary or upcoming fundraising event. They want to know what you’re doing that’s making a difference. Choose a story that they will want to run.
2. Pitch it to the right media outlet. Not all of them will cover your type of story. Find the television station that touts itself as “community based” or “home grown.” They’re more likely to cover the local feel-good stuff. Find the newspaper reporter who covers your content area and pitch your story directly to them. You can usually do a little research on their websites and figure out exactly who to send your press release to.
3. Answer the 5 Ws in your press release. Follow the standard press release formula and give the who, what, where, when, and why of your story. Show how your nonprofit is the right one (or the only one) addressing the particular need and how you are fully committed to making a difference. Include your contact info, too. You can google Sample Press Release and find a ton of ideas for what your release should look like.
4. Follow up with a thank-you note if they run your story. Seems obvious, but lots of reporters and News Directors have told me they hardly ever get a thank-you from a nonprofit. Thanking them for helping you out is not only polite, it can begin a relationship, which will make your next placement even easier. And if something amazing happens because of your story (you collect an unprecedented amount of money or stuff, a dog gets adopted, etc.), definitely let your media contact know. They LOVE knowing that their story made a difference.
Pitching stories to the news media is like anything else – the more you do it, the better you get at it.
So do it. Often. Get a volunteer or intern to help you if needed, but get in the habit of finding and pitching stories.

5 tips to make it easier

Getting your story in the news can seem daunting if you’ve never done it before, so here are some tips to help you get your story in the news.
1. Make it easy to pick up your story.  Local newspapers have fewer staff than ever before, and they’re challenged to fill lots of space with stories. They don’t usually have the resources to interview you and write the story themselves, so the easier you can make it for them to run your story, the more likely you’ll get placement. Write an interesting press release. Offer to supply the full story. Provide photos or video to go with the story. Just make it easy for them. I once had an Editor tell me that he loved my press releases because they could literally copy and paste from my email and run the piece. He said “you wouldn’t believe how many people scribble something on a napkin, hand it to me and expect me to run something.”
2. Be the expert. Offer expert insight on your subject matter so that reporters will seek you out. When a story hits national or international news with relevance to your community or your mission, reach out to your local news and offer your point of view. For example, when a natural disaster strikes, the local Red Cross offers emergency preparedness tips, and local media sources love that kind of story. Any time a story comes out with updated poverty or hunger stats nationally, the food bank should show up with local numbers or implications. Reporters love knowing they can turn to you for the local angle.
3. Consistently pitch a story. I recommend that you pitch a story to the local media once a month. But it has to be a good story. Stay in touch with the reporters who cover your beat. Send your newsletters and updates to them to keep them in the know about what you’re doing. I once got a story on TV because of an article a reporter saw in my newsletter.
4. Offer a great photo opp. Newspapers and TV want great visuals to go along with a story, so provide it to them. Look for a photo opp that will appeal to them. Or provide a great photo along with your story. Just about anything can be turned into a photo opp once you learn to think like a reporter. Inventory of music instruments, a tractor trailer load of loose watermelons, or a pile of kids’ prosthetic legs – these are all photo opps I have personally pitched to the media and got stories placed. It’s all about creating the habit of always being on the lookout for a good photo opportunity.
5. Share it like crazy. If you do get a story, share the heck out of it on social media. Make copies of the newspaper article and send it to donors along with a personal note. Send out an email blast and include a link to the news media site. The more you share it, the more you’ll get out of it, and the more the news media will appreciate it.

When you work in a small office, it’s tough to get everything done. And easy to get overwhelmed.
Every big nonprofit you can think of was once a small shop, with someone doing most everything themselves.
So, how did they grow from a tiny little nonprofit to a much bigger one?
It’s the same way that businesses grow and the back bone of franchises.
Think for a minute about Starbucks.
If you go to any Starbucks in the world and order a tall vanilla latte, you’re going to get the same drink no matter what city you’re in.
Know why?
Systems will save you.

The magic of fundraising systems

Systems help you grow and multiply your efforts.
When you have a system for getting something done, you don’t have to think too hard about what you’re doing.
You follow the formula and get the result you’re looking for. Just like that tall vanilla latte.
A system is simply an organized method for accomplishing a task so that you get the same result every time, no matter who is using the system.
Actually, the system can run without you, because someone else can easily follow it.
Systems can help you be more efficient, ensure quality and speed up the training process for new folks.
The biggest reason why you need systems in your fundraising office is that they help you get more done.
Face it, you’re just one person and you can’t do everything (even if you try).
Fundraising systems will streamline your work and save you time.
I see people all the time who have no systems or their systems are broken. They’re overwhelmed, they spend a lot of time ‘winging it’, they’re disorganized, and they seem to always be fighting fires.
In practical terms, when you don’t have systems, you won’t be able to keep good volunteers – they’ll get frustrated at the disorganization and go somewhere else. Your database will be crap because you’re inconsistent about entering data and there’s no protocol for keeping it clean. Donors will be frustrated at the errors in your materials or the sporadic nature of your communications.
Anything you do more than once needs a system. Theoretically, every time you use the system, you get faster or you refine it. You become more efficient.

Systems are best when:

  • They are in writing.
  • They are clearly understood by those who will be using them.
  • They are reviewed from time to time to make sure they still work.


Steps to creating a system

When you’re ready to create a new system, follow these steps:
1. Identify the end result. What is the result you want from the system every time it’s used, no matter who is using it?
2. Identify system users. Who will be using the system? What do they know now about the end result you’re trying to achieve? What training and support will they need?
3. Flowchart the system. Break the system down into small, separate steps that will be easy to understand and teach. Flowcharts give you a nice easy visual to work with, and you can do this with software (there’s a SmartArt tool in most Microsoft products) or sticky notes.
4. Create system support tools. What can you create that will help the user? Think about checklists, worksheets, forms, etc., that can make learning and using the system easier.
Here’s an example of a system flow chart for entering gifts that are received through the mail. It’s pretty simple yet effective.

I personally would create a procedure for this system with screen shots of the donor tracking software for looking up a donor, entering a new donor, and entering the gift. I’d create a list of gift codes for easy reference. And I’d create a separate system for creating a new donor record, with specifics about what information goes in what field, whether pieces of the address should be abbreviated or not, and what salutations should be set up.
Yes, it may seem like a lot of detail, but that’s what will set you up for success long-term. You have your way of doing things, and if you want others to do it your way, you have to systematize it. Then it becomes the organization’s way of doing things.

10 must-have systems for the small fundraising office

After working in fundraising for nearly 20 years, I’ve found that these are the systems you absolutely must have if you want to raise more money in the coming year.
1. Gift entry. As in the example, you need a system for getting donations entered into your software. Include how you look up the donor, enter the donation, and prepare the thank-you letter. If you’re handling checks, you might include a piece about preparing a deposit for the bank.
2. Volunteer onboarding. The more you spread the word about your nonprofit’s good work, the more people will want to help. You need a system for recruiting volunteers or responding to inquiries (be prepared for both phone and email inquiries), how you store volunteer information including their areas of interests and times of availability, and how you get them oriented and plugged in.
3. Grant research. You need a system for conducting grant research, including how often you will look for new grant opportunities, where you will look, what key words you’ll use, how you’ll organize the information you find, and how you’ll get the hot new opportunities merged into your ongoing grant activities.
4. Donor Acknowledgement. The more donations you receive, the better you need to be at thanking donors. This system should include how you select the right thank-you letter, when the letters are processed and sent out, how you thank donors at various levels, and when you involve Board members in thanking donors. You should also include something about changing your standard letter every month.
5. Social media. This system should include how you decide what to post, when to post, where to post, and who posts. Getting clear about this system will save you a ton of time and keep you from staring at Facebook wondering what you should be sharing. It will also keep your audience interested and more engaged.
6. Board recruitment. In order to create a red-hot, super-effective Board, you need a system for recruiting the right people. This system should include how you decide what skills you need, where you find new Board member prospects, how you start the conversation, a process for interviewing prospects, who interviews them, and how you make the final decision about who to invite to join your Board. No single Board member should be inviting new people onto the Board. Recruitment should be done by a committee of 2 or 3 Board members. When you’re very purposeful about recruitment, you will get great new folks on your Board.
7. Welcome New Donors. The time between a new donor’s first gift and their second gift is a critical time. What happens during the first couple of weeks will determine whether they’ll give again (or not). Create a system for welcoming new donors that makes them feel really good about their decision to give to your nonprofit. This system should include what welcome activities will happen, when they’ll happen, and who will do them. You can include a new donor welcome kit, thank you phone call, welcome video, etc. Just focus on making them feel like they’re making a difference and part of something worthwhile.
8. Creating a newsletter. Your newsletter can be your best tool for building relationships with donors and prospects, but if it’s done haphazardly, it won’t accomplish much of anything (and unfortunately, most nonprofit newsletters are crap). Create a system for the timing of your newsletter (when it goes out and how often it goes out), its format, its content, and who it goes to. When you have a schedule and an editorial calendar for your newsletter, writing it becomes much, much easier, and your recipients will actually read it!
9. Nurturing donors. How will you take care of your donors so they feel appreciated, engaged and part of your team? You need a system for nurturing them. Actually, I encourage you to create two donor nurture systems: one for your top donors and another for everyone else. Include the warm touches you’ll use 1-to-1 with your best donors like personal notes, visits, personal tours, etc. And for the rest of your donors, consider video, open houses, holiday cards with no ask, etc. Create a calendar for when these will go out, how they’ll get created, who will create them, and who will send them.
10. Following up on pledges. One of the biggest mistakes a nonprofit can make is letting donors make a pledge then not supporting the donor to make the pledge payment. I’ve had the experience of making a pledge and being told I’d receive a quarterly statement to remind me to send in my donation, then never hearing another thing from the organization. Create a system for managing pledge info (where it’s stored), determining who needs to be followed up with, how you’ll do the follow up, what will be sent, and what to do if they don’t pay. This system will keep you from losing money that you worked hard to get.
Warning: don’t try to create all these systems at once. Start with the one that will give you the most leverage, create it and put it in place. Once it seems to be working well, go on to the next one. If you tackle one system a month and you get it solidly in place, you will see tremendous improvement over the next 12 months.
Once you have systems created and begin using them, review them from time to time to make sure they still work. Ask those who use the system for feedback. Check the system output to make sure you’re still getting the results you’re looking for. Update your procedures. And make sure everyone is still on the same page about what the system should be doing.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy, affordable, and dynamic way to thank donors this holiday season, then check this out:
Make and send a thank-you video.
It’s super easy to shoot. Just use your smart phone. No fancy equipment or skill needed (isn’t THAT a relief!).
With YouTube being one of the biggest social media platforms out there, people are used to seeing videos that aren’t professionally done. No need to hire a film crew and spend thousands when you already have everything you need!
Just share your message from the heart and you’ll wins tons of brownie points with your donors.
How it works
First, choose the donors you want to thank. Start with your top ones or ones who have been particularly helpful lately. You might start with your Board to practice.
Decide what you want to say. You might want to create an outline of the points you want to make. I wouldn’t create a word-for-word script because it puts too much pressure on you to be perfect. This needs to be real and in-the-moment. You may need to practice a couple of times until you get comfortable shooting video and getting the words out that you want to say.
Make it personalized. Start the video by mentioning the donor by name. Yes, this means you’ll need to make each donor their own video. And I promise it will be worth the few minutes you’ll spend doing it. Bonus points if you mention something in the video that is specific to the donor (a family member, a recent trip they took, or something else that lets the donor know you’re paying attention to them).
Keep it short. Don’t ramble. Shoot for about a minute, maybe a minute and a half. People just won’t watch long videos (they’re too busy).
Done is better than perfect. Don’t let your perfectionism drama get in the way here. A good video with a flub in it that warms a donor’s heart is better than a video that never gets finished because the shooter can’t ‘get it right.’ Your thank-you video doesn’t have to be perfect – it just has to be sincere.
Once you have the video done, upload it to YouTube and make it “unlisted.” That means only someone with the link can see it. Then email the donor the link and watch what happens.
Sample time!
I have lots of clients doing these videos this holiday season and their donors are LOVING them!
Here’s one I got from the Watauga Humane Society recently: https://youtu.be/8IODutA4PyU
Here’s a playlist of videos we’ve collected: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjcLg4PsUjw&list=PLMm6pto8W-m2IfmzFydP2ygeLfaOiM5nl
And here’s a list from Network for Good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8cFXc713bw&list=PL30C895F6055CDEEA

Thanks to Abby Jarvis with Qgiv for today’s article.
When it comes to online fundraising, how does your nonprofit stack up?

Do you have a prominent “Donate Now” button on your website? A stellar donation page? Are you receiving online donations at a steady rate?

Check, check, and check, you might be saying to yourself. (If not, you can make a note to amend these online fundraising mistakes)1.

Well, what happens after your donors have pressed the “Make a Donation” button on your form? Even the most tech-savvy nonprofits may struggle with the next steps, vital as they are.

Once a donor gives online, you need to start the stewardship process. Your online donors, after all, are just as valuable to your cause as your other supporters.

Donor stewardship is about more than retaining donors. It’s about building stronger, lasting relationships so that donors engage with your nonprofit at increasingly advanced levels. They may donate larger amounts, give more frequently, or offer more involved support for your mission.

Either way, stewardship is vital to growing a healthy online donor base.

Let’s take a look at our 6 steps to stewarding online donors effectively:

  1. Use online giving software.
  2. Offer multiple giving options.
  3. Customize donation receipts.
  4. Amp up your confirmation page.
  5. Give a sincere thank you.
  6. Send relevant, engaging emails.

Let’s get started with the first step.

1. Use online giving software.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-1Using online giving software is the foundation of not just your stewardship, but all of your online fundraising efforts2.

However, it’s especially important that you choose a platform that can integrate with your stewardship plan.

What features should you look for when choosing (or swapping!) your online giving software?

Here are some important considerations:


  • CRM Integration. When new donors give online, or if current donors input new information into your online donation form, you’ll need a way to access it so that you can flesh out your donor profiles and connect more naturally with your donors. Strong online software should offer CRM integration so that this information is catalogued in an accessible format.
  • Account creation. The ability for donors to create accounts when they donate is a great way to keep them invested in your organization. With this feature, donors are able to manage their donations and payment methods, which gives them more control over their giving experience. It’s important that you never require donors to create an account, though — simply give them the option!
  • Recurring giving. Convenience is key to meeting donors in their busy lives. You can better steward your donors if you make giving easy because they’ll be more inclined to donate again if they know the process is simple. Including an option to set up automatic recurring gifts is a great way to retain donors without requiring them to go through a lengthy process or schedule a donation on their calendar every month or so.


These are only a few of the features that are important when considering your online giving software.

Ultimately, you want to choose a software that makes the giving process as simple and rewarding as possible for your donors3.

At the same time, your platform should help your organization create a more informed stewardship strategy by providing insight into your donors’ giving patterns and information.

2. Offer multiple giving options.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-2There are many reasons to offer multiple giving options on your online donation form. One reason is that it can encourage donors to give more than they normally would.

In terms of stewardship, giving options allow you to meet your donors’ expectations with their gifts.

To do so, you can define how each gift amount will be used for your cause. Be as specific as possible.

Let’s take a look at an example. Say your organization is a big cat rescue. On your donation page, you can specify what each gift can accomplish, as follows:

$50 will purchase a new scratching post to keep our tigers happy and healthy.

$100 will feed our lions for a month.

$500 will aid in our rescue efforts for big cats in poor conditions.

When you set your donors’ expectations, you have a greater chance of satisfying them.

After all, stewardship is about managing your donors’ gifts and expectations with care4.

Outright stating what certain gift amounts will accomplish takes the guesswork away from both you and the donor, so that you can focus on building a stronger relationship.

3. Customize donation receipts.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-3Your online giving software likely offers an automatic donation receipt feature.

Sending quick, immediate donation receipts is important for online donors, because receipts confirm that your nonprofit has successfully processed the donation.

However, personalization should not be sacrificed for speed. You can use donation receipts to steward donors by customizing them.

A custom donation receipt shows that your nonprofit has put forth a deliberate effort to acknowledge the donor’s gift.

To create the most effective receipt strategy, you’ll want to:


  • Thank donors. Though a donation receipt isn’t necessarily your formal thank you letter, you should still use this opportunity to offer your gratitude to donors. Include a “thank you” in your receipt email subject line and at the top of the email.
  • Personalize receipts. Always include the donor’s preferred name and title on the receipt. Avoid overly formal language or legalese. You can include the important legal information near the bottom of the receipt, but to start out, greet your donors with sincerity (ex: Thank you, Sharon, for furthering our cause to save big cats!).
  • Be specific. Acknowledge the specific donation amount, as well as the campaign that a donor gave to. (ex: Your $100 donation will provide tigers like Stripes with food for an entire month).
  • Include relevant photos. If possible, include photos of the recipients of your aid in your donation receipt. That way, donors will feel more connected to your cause.


Following a custom receipt strategy will show your donors that they’re important to your organization and that your nonprofit cares about them as individuals, not just as donations5.

4. Amp up your confirmation page.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-4What’s the first thing donors see after they press the donation button? Your confirmation page.

Now is the chance to make your first stewardship impression.

One of the best ways to steward donors is to offer more opportunities for engagement. You don’t want to initiate another ask; after all, you want your donors to feel appreciated!

So what kind of content can you include on your confirmation page?

You can include:


  • Social media integration. We live in a digital age. Once a donor gives, they may want to share their donation with their social networks. Including Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ sharing buttons can allow donors to do just that, quickly and easily! If donors integrate their donation with their social presence, then they may be more inclined to continue supporting your nonprofit. Plus, you can acquire new donors in the process!
  • Shareable content. Publicly sharing a donation isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. You can still merge giving with your donors’ social networks by prompting donors to share valuable content. A video that shows the recipients of your nonprofit’s aid being helped is a great example. When donors share this video with their networks, they’re making a public statement of their support, which can encourage their friends to get involved, too.
  • Upcoming events or volunteer opportunities. Stewarding donors means keeping them involved. Links to upcoming fundraising events or volunteer opportunities can show donors that you want them along for the ride.


The goal is to use your confirmation page to keep donors invested and interested in your nonprofit after they’ve already given.

5. Give a sincere thank you.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-5It’s vital that your online donors don’t slip through the cracks. You’ll need to send them a sincere thank you, likely through an online channel such as email.

The thank you should be prompt, but it doesn’t have to be immediate.

Taking extra time to learn about your online donors can help you personalize your thank yous to the donors’ preferences and potential.

After all, online donation forms have the capacity to reach a wide variety of donors. You may acquire new donors through crowdfunding or peer-to-peer campaigns, for example.

A new donor may give a moderate, but substantial, gift online while holding major donor potential6. In this case, a donor may require a personal phone call, rather than an email, to learn more about their gift.

You won’t know unless you take the time to research these donors or flesh out your current donor profiles7.

That way, when you send your thank you, you’ll have a better grasp on who your donors are as contributors and what paths they can take with your organization.

In short, a sincere thank you is based upon actually knowing who the donor is. The more you know your donors, the better you can thank them appropriately.

Remember that all donors deserve thanks. Small or mid-sized donors may not receive a personal phone call, but you can still make your thank you meaningful by:


  • Updating the donor. Update the donor on the progress of your campaign so that they can see how their gift is being used for good.
  • Letting the recipients of your aid speak. Ask the recipients of your aid how they are being helped. Allow them to express their personal gratitude or tell their stories. Or, in the case of our big cats example, you can include a cute photo with a “thank you” written as the caption. The point is to put the spotlight on the people or animals that your donors care about.
  • Use donor-centric language. Do not talk about your nonprofit. Or at least, keep your language focused on what “you,” the donor, has done. Not on what “we,” the nonprofit, have accomplished.


While these strategies can be applied to all donors, you can send more prominent gestures of gratitude to high-level donors, who likely expect more than an email for their gifts.

To steward these donors properly, you can meet in person to learn more about their gift. Or, you can try sending a personalized video to demonstrate your thanks8.

6. Send relevant, engaging emails.

qgiv-getfullyfunded-onlinestewardship-step-6To properly steward online donors, you’ll need to send them relevant updates about your nonprofit.

Online donors have demonstrated that they enjoy giving through an online channel; it’s likely that they’ll also enjoy receiving information in the same way.

Staying in touch with your donors is important for keeping them invested in your organization. Of course, you’ll want to send more than the occasional ask.

You can use your CRM to segment your email list9 so that donors are receiving the information that’s most relevant to them. You wouldn’t, for instance, want to email a long-time donor (who just gave their first online contribution) a newsletter that welcomes them to the organization.

Specific, informative, and engaging content is the best way to spice up your emails.

But you can also use this channel to further your stewardship efforts beyond the online giving world.

You can, for instance, send personal email invites to events.

Fundraising events are great fun for everyone10. But you can also host non-ask events specifically designed to steward donors.

If your know your donors are receptive to online communication channels, email may be the perfect way to meet these donors face-to-face!

Stewarding your online donors can keep them happy and invested in your organization11.

These strategies can help ensure that you’re treating all of your donors as the valuable individuals that they are!


  1. http://getfullyfunded.com/13-signs-online-fundraising-2/
  2. https://www.qgiv.com/
  3. http://getfullyfunded.com/10-things-your-online-donors-want/
  4. https://www.qgiv.com/blog/donor-stewardship-cultivation-guide/
  5. http://getfullyfunded.com/15-tips-to-build-donor-relationships-through-stellar-stewardship/
  6. http://articles.salsalabs.com/major-gifts-guide/
  7. https://doublethedonation.com/nonprofit-software-and-resources/prospect-research-tools/
  8. http://getfullyfunded.com/the-hottest-way-to-thank-donors-ever-2/
  9. http://blog.fundly.com/nonprofit-crm-complete-guide/
  10. https://www.neoncrm.com/planning-fundraising-events/
  11. http://getfullyfunded.com/4-keys-keeping-happy-donors-repeat-gifts/




Abby Jarvis is a blogger, marketer, and communications coordinator for Qgiv, an online fundraising service provider. Qgiv offers industry-leading online giving and peer to peer fundraising tools for nonprofit, faith-based, and political organizations of all sizes. When she’s not working at Qgiv, Abby can usually be found writing for local magazines, catching up on her favorite blogs, or binge-watching sci-fi shows on Netflix.